How to Get a Green Card in the United States

Updated on April 10, 2024

Many visa holders want to move from being in the U.S. on a temporary basis to being in the U.S. permanently. To do this, you will have to apply for a green card.

If you are wondering how to get a green card, take a look below. We will go through what you need to be eligible for a green card, how to get a green card and how much a green card costs.

What is a Green Card?

A Green Card (also known as a Permanent Resident Card) is proof of your immigration status in the U.S.

If you want to immigrate to the U.S. and become a permanent resident, you have to apply for a Green Card. Possessing a Green Card gives you certain rights and responsibilities in the U.S. similar to that of citizens. For example, you are not only entitled to live in the U.S. permanently, but you can work in the U.S. permanently as well.

Other perks of having a Green Card is the fact that you can travel outside of the U.S. without it mixing up your status in the U.S. You can also apply for citizenship after 5 years.

The card is called a green card as the physical cards were green when they were first being issued. It has undergone quite a few designs and color changes, but the cards are green once again.

Who Can Get a Green Card?

The general requirements to qualify for a Green Card are:

  • You have to belong to one of the immigrant categories described below (these categories are established in terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act)
  • Your qualifying immigrant petition must be filed and approved
  • There has to be an immigrant visa available
  • You must be admissible in the U.S.

What does it mean there has to be an immigrant visa available? There are limits on how many immigration visas are granted every year. Fortunately, there are always immigrant visas available to immediate family members of U.S. citizens. Not only are the visas limited, but there are certain priorities and preferences for how the visas are granted.

Not sure if you are admissible? There are certain grounds for inadmissibility into the U.S. which includes:

  • Criminal history: if you’ve been charged with certain crimes, you won’t be admissible.
  • Immigration history: if you’ve ever entered the U.S. illegally or overstayed your visa period for more than 6 months, you might not be admissible.
  • Health reasons: If you have a disease that makes you a public health risk or you have a dangerous physical or mental disorder, this will make you inadmissible.
  • Financial reasons: the person who sponsors you has to be able to support you financially, otherwise you will be inadmissible.

How to Apply for a Green Card

Below we take a look at the practicalities of how to get a Green Card.

Find Out if You’re Eligible

The eligibility categories (or formally known as immigration categories) set by the Immigration and Nationality Act are:

  1. Green Card through Family (family-based)
  2. Green Card through a Job (employment based)
  3. Refugee or Asylee (based on refugee or asylum status)

A family-based Green Card is one of the easiest Green Cards to get. This will apply if you are a close relative to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (meaning you are either their spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21 or parent over the age of 21). These are the first category preference options when it comes to a family-based petition, but if you are another form of relative or special situation, you might still qualify.

The employment-based category does not only include situations where you have a job offer but also where you plan to invest in the U.S. economy and create jobs.

Finally, you might be eligible for a Green Card based on your status as a refugee or asylee. Remember, if you are a refugee, you have to apply for your green card within one year of entering the U.S. If you have been granted asylum, you also have to apply within one year of asylum status being granted.

File for I-485

A Form I-485 is an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Make sure you don’t make any mistakes when you fill in this form, as errors can lead to further delays in processing or ultimate rejection. If you are applying under the family-based eligibility category, you can usually fill in the Form I-485 together with your Form I-130.

Have Your Green Card Interview

After your biometrics appointment, you will be issued with a notice informing you of the date, time and location of your interview with an immigration officer. Since Trump’s presidency, a lot more focus has been placed on immigration enforcement and thus more interview notices are issued than ever.

At the interview, you will most likely need to answer questions about your application.

It’s important that you don’t miss this interview. If you can’t attend the date and time allocated to you, you can contact the service center at which your interview is scheduled to reschedule your appointment. Take note that this might delay your application quite a bit.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Green Card?

As mentioned above, having a Green Card means you can live and work in the U.S. permanently. One of the biggest practical advantages of having a Green Card over having a visa is the fact that you can travel in and out of the U.S. without limitations or having it affect your status.

If you have a Green Card, you can apply to become a U.S. citizen after 5 years. After 10 years of working on your Green Card, you can also apply for social security benefits.

Lastly, if you have a family member who is not in the U.S. but wants to join you, you can sponsor that family member. This is only an option if you have a Green Card and is not available on a visa.

How Much Does a Green Card Cost?

The filing fee for a green card is $1140. In addition to this, you will be charged a biometric fee of $85. The total for a green card application is, therefore, $1125.

Conclusion

If you are eligible for a Green Card, the application process won’t be too complicated. There are many perks to getting a Green Card so consider applying today!

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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